Theatre

Review: In Blood: The Bacchae

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009

For the Arcola’s latest offering in their Reimagining the Classics series, Frances Viner has reimagined Euripides’s play in sultry 1920s Brazil and threaded into the plot the racial politics of the country’s class system.

At the top is Greg Hicks’s police chief Gordhilho, a descendent of European colonisers. At the bottom is Daon Broni’s Afro-Brazilian Besouro, inspired by the real-life folk hero who ran rings round Brazil’s persecuting police and is cast here as a modern-day Dionysus.

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Review: Roaring Trade

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009

Playwright Steve Thompson has carved a niche in exploring industries which affect the way we live. In Damages, it was the tabloid press; in Whipping It Up, it was politics; and in Roaring Trade it is the City bond traders who embody the culture of greed that brought the economy to its knees.

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Review: Well

By John Nathan, January 8, 2009

Well did well in New York. But outside that Mecca of self-regarding therapy and neurosis, Lisa Kron’s exploration of her family’s fake or imagined illnesses comes across as infuriatingly self-indulgent.

And not even the novelty casting of Sarah Miles — who has her own track record of self-diagnosis— as Kron’s mother Ann can keep this tedious play from imploding.

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Review: The Cordelia Dream

By John Nathan, December 30, 2008

I am still shaking off the effects of my previous visit to this beautiful East End theatre, which is hosting a double bill of new work from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Adriano Shaplin’s stamina-sapping epic about the emergence of rationalist thought in Cromwell’s England took a very long time to say very little. Like a bad apple on a supermarket shelf, it prompted a question about RSC quality control: “How on earth did that one get through?”

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Review: Cinderella

By John Nathan, December 23, 2008

The best seasonal offering I’ve seen this - and any other - year is retold by Ben Power and director Melly Still with such invention, it’s like encountering the fairy tale for the first time.

Some say the macabre moments — just think how the sisters might make the slipper fit — are too disturbing for kids. But fairy tales are meant to scare. Still imbues her show with enough realism to convince and enough magic to transport her audience.

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Review: Sunset Boulevard

By John Nathan, December 23, 2008

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1993 musical, with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, has had the Watermill Theatre, Newbury treatment — which is to say a big show has been turned into a small one and populated with actors who double as musicians.

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This is how you play Fagin, Rowan

By John Nathan, December 18, 2008

Take a train on the London Underground and there he is. His steady stare follows you up and down the escalators.

The face belongs to Rowan Atkinson, who has swapped the role of his gormless creation, Mr Bean, for the cunning Dickensian character Fagin in the latest West End revival of the musical, Oliver!.

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Review: Twelfth Night

By John Nathan, December 18, 2008

It was Derek Jacobi’s tender and tragic Cyrano who first made me cry in a theatre. But in Shakespeare’s comedy his austere Malvolio is motivated much more by a yearning for status than the possibility of love.

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Review: Loot

By John Nathan, December 18, 2008

Although in Joe Orton’s 1966 comedy, Detective Truscott (David Haig) is willing to beat the hell out of anyone who gets in the way of his investigation — and for that matter, anyone who doesn’t — it is the police who get a right kicking from Orton’s wit.

It is no longer shocking to see a violent, corrupt, stupid cop on stage. But it is amazing that Sean Holmes’s precisely directed production of Orton’s subversive farce, which is so rooted in the ’60s, feels so precisely targeted at the current erosion of civil rights in this country.

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Review: Maria Friedman re-arranged

By John Nathan, December 11, 2008

Now that she’s forsaken full-blown musicals, Maria Friedman is becoming the Queen of Cabaret. Unfussilly directed by David Babani, Friedman’s solo show is yet another West End transfer for his Menier Chocolate Factory.

The impeccable song book is drawn from such disparate composers as Sondheim and Kate Bush, each of which has been subtly rearranged. There is no classier show in the West End. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard the award-winning Friedman sing better.

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